Government workers' spending was a disaster, too

Department of Homeland Security seal

KAI RYSSDAL: It's probably tough enough being Wal-Mart's press person. Trying being the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. You know, the place that houses FEMA? There was more bad news to deal with today. Auditors are revealing more wasteful spending in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This time by government workers. Marketplace's Scott Tong reports.

SCOTT TONG: The government gives credit cards to employees to make what are supposed to be small purchases. The program is called "Smart Pay."

You be the judge: Today's audit finds 230 bucks spent on a beer brewing kit, eight grand for a plasma screen TV, 208,000 for flat-bottom boats — the Feds paid double the market price.
SCOTT AMEY: I'd love to say that I'm shocked.

Scott Amey is with the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. He says the problem has cropped up throughout government.

AMEY: Purchase-card holders have bought Atlanta Braves tickets, Victoria's Secret merchandise, jewelry, cell phones, tires, escort services. And in one instance we've even seen someone purchase breast enhancement surgery.

In the Homeland Security case, the report blames bad management and oversight. It found in almost half the cases, the purchases were not properly authorized. The department has disciplined 70 workers, and plans to look into the fishy charges.

In Washington I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.


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